/ Technology

Nuisance calls & texts: the government has heard your calls

Calling Time campaign phone

Almost 82,000 of you have called for action on nuisance calls and texts. And the government has finally heard you loud and clear – it’s announced a crackdown on this menace. Do the government’s plans go far enough?

In a new strategy paper called Connectivity, Content and Consumers, the government has announced its plans to clamp down on nuisance calls and texts.

So what does the government propose? For starters, it says that it will implement two of the key asks from our Calling Time on Nuisance Calls & Texts campaign:

1. It will be made easier for Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to share data about nuisance calling companies.

2. It will reduce the level of distress that the ICO must prove before it can take enforcement action – nuisance calls will only have to be annoying, rather than causing ‘substantial harm’.

These changes alone may lead to more effective enforcement action against the worst perpetrators of nuisance calls and texts. And even more rule breakers may face fines if all of us report the calls and texts we’ve had by using the new Which? complaints tool.

Stepping up to nuisance callers

Rightly, the government also wants the industry to do more. Initially, this will focus on stopping nuisance callers from concealing their phone numbers, which at the moment makes it very hard for people to report the caller. Ofcom is working hard with the industry on a technical fix so that a phone number can’t be hidden, in a similar way to how IP addresses are identifiable online.

The government has said that it will go further if necessary, even to the point of introducing new laws that will require call centres to be licensed. The door has also been left open to improve the system of how people give consent to be contacted. However, we want to see the government go further and faster by strengthening the law on consent and the use of personal data. For example, there should be an expiry date on the consent you’ve given to be contacted by third parties, and it should be easier for you to withdraw this consent.

This action from the government cannot come soon enough for the 85% of people who are bombarded by nuisance calls and texts. Still, this isn’t the end of the story. We’ve now got to make sure that the action promised is put into effect. While some of the changes can be made by tweaking existing legislation, we’ll be supporting Mike Crockart MP’s Private Member’s Bill as another legislative vehicle for the government to use this November.

So what do you think of the government’s planned changes to take on the scourge of nuisance calls and texts? Do they go far enough?

Comments
Alan says:
4 August 2013

Number Withheld Calls – Why don’t BT and other telephone service providers charge £1 extra for making such a call – with the money being credited to the account of the recipient of these calls?

The only way to stop abuse is to provide serious financial disincentives to abusers ….

What a brilliant idea. It would take an armed uprising to enforce it though.

I don’t think charging £1 or any other amount for withholding a number is a good idea as there is a down side to it. For example when calling an organisation that you feel may misuse or sell your details it’s a good idea to withhold your number for your own security, why should anyone have to pay for that ?
It could only work if the charge was only applied to registered call calling companies but trying to police that would be difficult.
We also need to consider the needs of the elderly and disabled people who may struggle to get to the phone, how annoying must it be to discover that it is only a nuisance call.
So the best solution is still an outright ban on forms of call calling.

A solution to that would be to charge £1 for any more than ten cloaked calls made in any one day, and then £1/call thereaftrer. So the private individual making less than 10 calls is not charged. Don’t forget that telephone exchanges are computer controlled so it is only a matter of software. A commercial organisation would not get very far if they were limited to 10 calls a day.

Alan says:
5 August 2013

Personally, I have never Withheld my number – any more than I would send anonymous letters – but, I can accept there may be an odd occasion when that may be necessary or wise …

A limit – 10 – or better still – 5 a day would cater for private individuals and stop commercial organisations from pestering people (unless they want to pay the £1 extra on top of the standard call charge each time)!

I would like to see that charge go to the Recipient of the Withheld Number Call – or a Charity of their choice – the technology obviously exists to facilitate this.

It’s about time the government turned its attention to dealing with this – far easier than trying to police the internet – which they seemed determined to do above all else!

I personally prefer this. If I choose not a receive any calls from withheld or spoofed numbers. I pay nothing. The call get routed to a very expensive premium rate answering service which takes several minutes to politely tell the caller, that I do not take calls from withheld numbers and that if they wish to talk to me they must unblock their number, and oh by the way you have been charged for this message. 50% of the revenue goes to me, 25% to the phone company and 25% to charity.

It’s good to see that the government has responded to the Which? campaign against nuisance calls and texts. However, while there mays be proposals to make the laws more strict it is evident that many cold calling businesses have a blatant disregard for the laws – many of these businesses still call you again after you have already told them not to, and many ignore the fact that people who have registered with the TPS should not be called anyway.

So in my opinion there is only one solution – all of these businesses are driven by the potential for making money, so when they break the law, they need to be fined heavily, to the extent that the fines will outweigh the profits they stand to make. For as long as they can pay fines but still make a profit, they will continue to operate.

In the meantime, I deal with the issue as follows: I have never registered with the TPS since it appears to be rather ineffective. But with a Caller Display unit on my fixed phone line (and similarly with Caller ID on my mobile) I simply never answer calls from numbers I don’t recognise, and especially any number starting with 08 – it’s far less time-consuming than answering, waiting to speak to a real person, and then telling them not to call again, given that many ignore such requests anyway.

I’ve noticed recently that nuisance calls have reduced drastically.

I haven’t had an International Call for nearly a month; I used to get about one per day often with an Indian accent.

The few nuisance calls I now receive all have a UK Caller Id.

Something and the government must be working :).

In the past, when answering nuisance calls, I have first tried to get the caller to identify their firm so that I can report them to TPS and then to ask them to remove my number from their lists and not call me again. In general this does no good nor does not answering in the first place.They often still call.

John Simpson says:
6 August 2013

At one time nearly everyone was in the telephone book and then the nuisance callers caused people to become ex.directory. Now it is very difficult to find someone you want to contact using the telephone directory.Nowadays I believe that these marketing companies either use lists from various business partners or just dial one number and then the next – one digit higher finding all the live numbers! Therefore, in my opinion restricting access to the electoral role will make little or no difference. I do think that banning withheld numbers would be a step in the right direction. If someone rings you, even from a company, then you should have the right to ring them back. There then should also be an easy way to bar numbers that have phoned you. I believe you can do this with BT, but it costs you more money. It should be free.

I had yet another silent call this morning with no return number. So nothing I can report.

Yet my phone company must have some idea of where the call came from, so maybe I should be able to call BT and get them to tell me ( for free ).

Actually, force the phone companies, by law, to give me details of the last withheld number that called me that I’m saying is a nuisance call, and I think you’ll find that the phone companies will soon decide that they should do something as they’ll forever be answering the phone to people complaining about the last call made to them.

Alan says:
6 August 2013

The trouble is that only a minority of people actually take the time to complain – and the damage is done once the call has been made.

I strongly believe there have to be financial disincentives to stop these organisations mass calling in the first place – so they either lodge a substantial deposit (£50,000 to £100,000) which is depleted EVERY time they make a call that the consumer doesn’t want (you would press a designated key on your telephone) – any they are charged a £1 surcharge for every Number Withheld Call made (after the first 5 made in any 24 hour period).

scotty says:
7 August 2013

I am plagued with calls, 6.00 am. 7.00 am Sunday mornings as well as throughout the day. saw a call blocker advertised on shopping channel. Bought it, had rave reviews, but it also blocked my alarm call pendant. Been in hospital 6 times in 12 months so need the pendant. I was told to get a spitter fitted and the alarm call company contacted me ok, but no one could ring me on my landline.
Had to have caller ID installed as part of the blocker package it costs £3.35 per month from Virgin.
tried the technical dept was advised to fit it to my bedroom phone. Part of the advertising blurb says if a call does get thro, press the button on the box and they will be prevented from coming thro in future.A lot of good when I am downstairs and the box is upstairs. Has hundreds of numbers stored and stops them calling. Sounds great, I am now asking the shopping channel if they will take it back as I have exceeded the returns date. HELP

tom gray says:
7 August 2013

At last some action – many thanks Which. However, the major proportion of my nuisance calls are now from overseas and we are told such calls cannot be traced and the callers cannot easily be prosecuted. Are we to believe that no technological fix is available? I have just had a call from a BT guy who admitted there was nothing that they could do. The irony is that I pay monthly rental so that these characters can pester me (I have more cold calls than genuine ones). I was offered ‘free’ caller ID to help manage these calls. However, the ‘free’ turned out to be £6 per quarter, as my outgoing calls are not with BT. BT have not given me a refund. How come intelligence services can eavesdrop on Al Quaeda leadership conversations and nobody can identify the source of an overseas call?

BC43 says:
12 August 2013

Having read quite a lot of the various comments but not all of them, I hope this comment of mine is not a repeat of someone else’s. It does seem to me that “nuisance” is a bit like a “weed” in a garden where one person’s weed is another person’s prize bloom. So I think it is with nuisance – what one person feels is a nuisance in terms of an unsolicited call or text depends very much on the recipients view. That person’s view will no doubt vary from time time depending amongst others on: the recipents mood; urgency of the recipients own must do tasks; whether the caller/texter is polite and is happy to leave contact details up front along with where the recipients number was obtained from; whether the caller gives info quickly up front that allows the recipient to understand what exactly the call is about; whether a conversation with the caller will prove unintelligible from language or accent compatibility viewpoints etc etc. I submit that the same gardener classifying his dandelions as a weed in one week may classify them, perhaps just temporarily, as a thing of beauty until they start to go to seed. So, with considerable respect to all the other comments made, what I myself believe the Government need to do in respect of “nuisance” calls/texts is to go back to the drawing board and properly consider what is to be, and what is not to be, DEFINED as a “nuisance”. This will be no mean task considering the variables of Jo Public’s opinion that can change with as little a prompt as mood change. However, without a lowest common denominator DEFINITION of nuisance in respect of unsolicited calls/texts and even another DEFINITION for “unsolicited” how will anybody in the overseeing/controlling authorities ever be able to consistently and fairly judge if unsolicited nuisance thresholds have been exceeded or not. How can a possible punishment be deduced without knowing how far over such thresholds a caller/texter, or frequent caller/texter, call centre or company behind the calling/texting have gone to obtain private data and use it for nothing more than profit.

For me, in this context, nuisance simply means unwanted. I’ve signed up to the TPS as I don’t want them. The same applies to market research calls which for some bizarre reason aren’t covered although why having 2 lists one for as now and one for also includes market research and anything else not covered in 1 is beyond me and clearly beyond the TPS/ICO/OFGem

I think the important difference between a telephone call or a ring at the door and other forms of advertising is that they are far more intrusive.

If either rings, you have to do something and interrupt what you are already doing, such as cooking a meal. You may have to climb down a ladder. How many people are in some form of domestic crisis such as dealing with an injured child, and the telephone goes off? With millions of these calls being made, this must be a significant number. Some people may run to the telephone to answer before the caller rings off. (Most people expect an instant response to a telephone call.)

If however a publicity firm sends a letter or published an advertising announcement on another medium, such as a newspaper, magazine, TV or a sidebar in a web site, the recipient can very easily decide whether to ignore it or not without any interruption as to what they are doing.

It is this difference that requires more stringent control of the telephone.

On the subject of what is a nuisance. And the answer any cold calling by phone,door step,junk mail also emails are a nuisance.

My home is where my family and I live,if we need some thing we will purchase it from a shop in person or on line.Any of the above are a nuisance,we wish to enjoy our home in peace and quiet,with out interruption.

It is obvious that the government do not care about us the people,and will do little or nothing,looking after the wealthy only.

What we need is action,and WHICH could help us with this,they know who these firms are,or most of them. And could give us all their contact numbers,and a day when we could all keep wringing them and jamming their switch boards up,especially managing directors,perhaps with a taste of their own medicine they would take note,if this was done continually.

Whilst I can sympathise with your frustration, trying to contact anyone other than a lowly telephonist in a company is very difficult. Even if you did get personal numbers of managers and directors their telephones would be answered by personal assistants or similar people who are well paid to fend off such calls. So from that point of view, wealth does protect the wealthy from this intrusion.

The government does require a majority of votes, and as the Socialists are so fond of pointing out, the very wealthy are only a tiny fraction of the electorate. To that extent, it is difficult to prove that the government only look after the very wealthy.

Jaybgee says:
15 August 2013

Unless I have missed something in all these exchanges, I am surprised that nobody has mentioned the special “block nuisance calls” phone which BT supplies: this is BT6500: Digital Cordless Phone with Answering Machine.

This phone automatically blocks all international calls and “number withheld, No Caller ID and pay phone calls, once you have set these categories up. You can also block “specific numbers”.

We used to be plagued by several nuisance calls virtually daily, and since buying the BT6500, we’ve had none of them! (The unsolicited calls we used to get were a nuisance because they almost always came at inconvenient times, or when we were somewhere else in the house, requiring a wasted trip to pick up the phone.)

Has nobody else tried this solution?

This and similar products are no use whatsoever to me. I receive important calls where the number is withheld, so I certainly don’t want to block these. Where there is a number shown, it is rarely one I have seen before.

I’ve mentioned it on one (and possibly more) of the numerous topics relating to nuisance calls. I’m just not convinced that I should be paying to stop something I’ve never asked for. So would only buy one when my current phone packs up, ( dropping on the floor AGAIN its always the things you don;t want to break that do 🙁 ).

I’ve even suggested Which? review call blocking items. I’m sure they’d find no shortage of volunteers for a free phone (although Which? I’d require 2 both with dual handsets 🙂 )

Maybe some/all of the other convo’s shouled be closed for further posts with a finally link pointing to the most recent convo ? Just a thought.

I just checked its manual on
http://www.shop.bt.com/content/uni2/documentation/8h3h/bt6500_user_guide.pdf
As far as I can see if someone with their number blocked tries to ring, they just don’t get through. There should be a recorded message something to the effect
“Dial 1234 (whatever the number is) to temporarily switch off your number withholding before you dial this subscriber’s number if you wish your call to be heard.”

Dial 1470 actually in front of this number you are calling.

Peter says:
17 August 2013

My biggest gripe is the calls from foreign centres . Three in under 20 minutes today
The technology must surely exist to enable the consumer to block calls from specific countries thus leaving those of us with family abroad , eg Australia , Canada etc the ability to take these calls and block the obvious nuisances ” India ” etc .
I for one would jump at this opportunity as being partially deaf I can’t understand a word they say anyway .
It might also provide companies operating in this country the incentive to move their call centres back here where they would support our own economy and not someone else’s .

George says:
17 August 2013

We have been registered with TPS for many years but it has not made any difference. Most of the offending call centres are acting with impunity while they continue enriching themselves at the expense of consumers. Apart from the numerous international calls that we receive from British companies using the international telephone system to get round any existing restrictions, we are plagued with computer dialled calls on our land line and mobiles from numbers such as 08452865281, 08452865283, 08452865275, 08452863322, 08452863313 that are possibly emanating from the same place and/or from similar unscrupulous businesses run by people intending to become millionaires before they are restricted by any future effective legislation (which still looks unlikely currently). There appears now to be another tactic in use by the number 08452863313 which rings repeatedly but after just two or three rings then terminates before being answered; we even get text messages on our mobiles saying that we have missed a call from that number. This might be a deliberate tactic to get call recipients to ring back the number of the missed call – which would be at a cost to the recipient and to the benefit of the junk caller – and therefore generating even more revenue for the get-rich-quick schemers in those call centre businesses.

If you own a mobile and get missed message from an 070 don’t be tempted to return the call as there’s another scam going round to trick people into ringing these numbers as they’re way more expensive than 084 numbers

George says:
17 August 2013

I very much like the idea put forward by Peter – for the telephone companies to introduce a facility to block international calls from specific countries. It would be a neat solution for many of us that have family members overseas and so are not able to block all international calls because of undesirable businesses using the international telephone facilities to avoid any UK restrictions.

Then don’t you think the Indian call centres will start forging their numbers as coming from Canada etc? Many of these International calls are from VoIP, where often you can choose your own number, or Prefix dial phone suppliers.

JEMG says:
19 August 2013

Agree – these calls can be more than a nuisance. My partner has A.D. (Alzheimer’s), and he just doesn’t understand any more what confidential information means and that revealing it could be disastrous. It’s the “international” hassling calls that are the most worrying as they are the most persistent. We have friends and family living abroad – so ignoring the “international” labelled calls is not practical. When I’m at home, I will answer the telephone and will know how to handle these calls. I either end the call or speak Welsh to them. They’re usually flummoxed. Speaking Welsh certainly has its benefits.

An apposite Tweet from BBC Breakfast.
Steph McGovern ‏@stephbreakfast
Annoyed by cold calls? Read this story about a guy who turned the cold calls he gets into a money making venture
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23869462

Ray salad says:
31 August 2013

Nuisance calls cold calling,whatever one calls it, I usually answer after they have asked a few basic question by suggesting what they want with the fraud squad…..after repeating my question I can hear the grey cells actually kicking in and then a click as they hang up….the something wrong with my computer and errors on my screen is also put to bed by saying yes we know that’s why it’s in the hospital…or answer them by asking them if I called them when they say no then simply say goodbye….

I had an interesting call. The caller told me that he was calling from Procom (don’t know about the spelling).
Apparently, some time ago I paid £45 on my Debit Card for Procom to to protect me from unwanted telemarketing calls. It must have been some time ago, because the caller felt it was OK that I did not remember the event. Anyway, after all this time they had now done what I had paid them for. They had registered me with the Telephone Preferential (sic) Service and they had written to all the Telemarketing Companies telling them not to phone me. Of course, I would still be able to get calls from my friends, the bank and the Post Office. This work had all now been completed, so from tomorrow, I would no longer get these nuisance calls. The reason for the phone call was that he was about to send me all the details in a letter. This letter was going to give me contact details in case anyone should contact me – but before he could do that he needed to be sure that I was Mr XXX YYYY, that my phone number was the one he had just called me on, and that my address was the same as he had presumably found in the phone book.
He also needed to confirm my identity using the Visa Debit card I had used for the original payment. His plan was that I would tell him which bank issued the card. He would then tell me some of the numbers on the card and I would tell him some of the numbers on the card. I was prepared to confirm that my Visa Debit card number started with a 4 – but otherwise I insisted that, since they already had the (fictional) payment, they only needed to send me the confirmation letter.
After a while, he did pass me on to a colleague and the conversation followed similar lines – before he rang off promising to call again in ½ hour.
I was only able to keep these fibbers talking for about 11 minutes.

George says:
4 September 2013

In recent weeks we have experienced another new type of junk call. We have caller ID and do not answer international calls until the caller identifies themselves (despite having several family members living overseas) as the majority of the junk callers seem to be now using the international call system despite operating from the UK presumably to minimise the registration of complaints against them and avoid possible fines. We are now receiving calls showing international ID which if answered or when our answer machine trips in the junk callers system plays music until someone in the relevant call centre becomes available to pick up the call connection. Needless to say we do not engage at all with the callers. However, I have noticed that the latest one of these unanswered calls appears on my telephone’s missed call list as our own telephone number; also, when I dialled 1471, the BT automatic system also advises that the missed call was from our own number. I am wondering if such an occurrence may be part of a scam to make money from the recipients of the junk calls – which would seem to me to be the commission of illegal acts for financial gain, which is fraud, and if BT is condoning such abuse on the BT telephone system, then BT must be complicit in the fraud.

Ref Georges’ post regarding his own tel number showing as having been the last caller to his own phone number; I wonder George if you should check your bill to see if there are any calls charged to your account coinciding with the times of these so called international calls?
I would also recommend that you ask BT to explain how your own number might appear as the last number to call this same tel number?

The ring of the telephone which usually heralded a contact from friends and family now has a large section of the population aprehensive that it may be someone with malicious intent.It must be possible to ban witheld number calling and those wishing to do so forced to make the call through operators who would keep a register of those making the calls.. .